POTENTIAL foster carers should not hesitate to consider volunteering – despite the average 20 weeks it takes to become approved, Dorset Council says.

The county’s average foster carer age is now 57 with many working on past state retirement age to offer children a home.

Cabinet member for education and children’s services Cllr Andrew Parry, says that age, or other background, need not be a bar and anyone who can offer a safe, stable home will be considered.

He has spoken on the fantastic work being done by the county’s foster carers during the pandemic and those who stepped forward to be considered during the pandemic, but says that more foster carers are needed.

READ MORE: Dorset foster carers praised

“It used to be we concentrated all our efforts on ‘foster care fortnight’ but actually it’s a repetitive message which needs to go out, time and time again, at different points of the year…when you meet our foster carers you realise they’re a broad range of people, they come from all sorts of backgrounds and experiences….

“We don’t rule anybody in or out, let’s have the conversation and then we can establish whether you will be right for fostering in Dorset,” he said.

“We need to reach out into our community and we need to get a broad range of people who can be our foster carers.”

Cllr Stella Jones asked if the council should target its advertising towards younger adults as there appeared to be a national trend for people in their 20s to become foster carers. Dorset’s youngest foster carer is 21.

Executive director of children’s services Theresa Leavy says that not having enough in-house foster carers means the council has to spend more on private foster care services.

Commenting on almost 250 people inquiring about fostering during the year, but only 20 being accepted, she said that some people were unrealistic at the outset about what the work entailed and many did not realise that they needed to provide a separate room for a foster child, that they could not share with their own children.

One in ten who inquire generally go on to become a foster carer.

Dorset Council has this year decided to bring its foster carer recruitment programme back in house. Since 2018 it has used a consultancy organisation to recruit mainstream foster carers. That contract expired at the end of May 2021.